Comments from Al Alvarez

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Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Embassy 1,2,3 Theatre on Apr 23, 2012 at 5:43 pm

I think the item that best addresses bigjoe’s query is:

“By the early 1910’s, perhaps 100 theaters built for movies had gone up in New York City.”

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Embassy 1,2,3 Theatre on Apr 23, 2012 at 3:20 pm

saps posted this on the Variety Photoplays pages in 2006:

saps on March 23, 2006 at 4:23 am

Here is the text of J.P. Valensi’s excellent post:

STREETSCAPES: Variety Photo Plays Theater; Marquee’s Lights Are Dark on 1914 ‘Nickelodeon’

By CHRISTOPHER GRAY Published: September 3, 1989

IT’S hard to put your finger on what was special about it. Perhaps it was the aura of the early days of the movies, but the 1914 Variety Photo Plays Theater at 110 Third Avenue was unforgettable when it was in operation.

Now the theater’s distinctive lightbulb marquee is dark, the property is vacant and being shown to potential buyers and, according to Michael Lerner, the leasing agent, a final decision – to sell, net lease or demolish the building – will come on Sept. 12.

The earliest movie theaters were just ad hoc alterations of spaces of opportunity, like a saloon or a storefront. According to the theater historian Michael R. Miller, these turn-of-the-century nickelodeons, where admission was usually nickel, were not superseded by specifically built movie theaters until 1908, when the Nicholand and Prospect Pleasure Palace went up in the Bronx.

By the early 1910’s, perhaps 100 theaters built for movies had gone up in New York City. They were good businesses and clustered near high-traffic sites. In 1914, one promoter, Jacob Valensi, secured a 15-year lease on a plot on the west side of Third Avenue, just south of the 14th Street stop of the elevated. There he built a two-story theater, according to Mr. Miller’s research, on a site previously occupied by a theater operation. Although filed as a new building, the theater actually used some of the perimeter walls of an older structure; the theater could in some ways be considered to pre-date 1914.

In its name – Valensi’s Variety Photo Plays – it sought an association with legitimate theater endeavors, of which 14th Street had been a center since the 1850’s.

Designed by Louis Sheinart, the exterior of Variety Photo Plays was in plain brick, generally unornamented except for arcaded piers projecting above a sloping tiled false roof. Mr. Miller called Sheinart ‘'a minor, minor architect of many, many theaters’‘ in this period.

Inside, the auditorium was fairly plain, but did have a slightly pitched floor and fixed seats, still novel touches in an industry that had started only recently with plain benches and sheets hung on a wall.

It is not clear if the walls have lost some architectural effect – they are now mostly patched plaster – but the ceiling is covered with modestly patterned pressed tin. Four large Tiffany-type half-globe lighting fixtures have somehow survived, and the simple fixed seats bear a ‘'V’‘ on the end panels.

There are rooftop louvered vents, still remote-controlled with chains that hang down in the middle of the theater, and a great square panel in the center, perhaps 30 feet across, is what remains of a sliding roof used in the days before air-conditioning.

Variety Photo Plays originally seated 450 and, according to Mr. Miller, probably first presented groups of two-reelers, collections of individual features, each 15 or 20 minutes long. This was at a period when the feature-length film was still uncommon and films in general were generally considered low-culture – ‘'photo plays’‘ or not.

By the early 1920’s, nickelodeons like the Variety Photo Plays were being supplanted by larger houses seating one or two thousand, and if the Variety was ever a first-rank theater, it surely must have begun a downward slide at that time.

In 1923, a marquee was added, designed by Julius Eckman. In 1930, a balcony seating 150 and a new lobby were installed by the architects Boak & Paris, who also made over the 1923 marquee. The lobby is nondescript neo-Renaissance and it is the marquee that has made the theater special, at least to modern eyes. Boak & Paris did not change the Eckman marquee’s underside, a coffered field with regularly spaced bulbs, but did add a zigzag Art Deco fascia in enameled metal and neon lighting. The fascia gives the theater’s, rather than the show’s, name and recalls the period when movies were more of a generic product. The lights buzzing on the underside of the marquee, when they were on, enveloped the passerby in a warm, glowing field. People going past the theater, even in the daytime, got a whiff of vintage celluloid, and at night it was intoxicating.

HE film fare over the last 30 years gradually shifted from B-grade to raunchy to naughty to pornographic, and added a slightly forbidden, Coney Island spice to the building. A 10-year-old schoolboy who somehow found himself on lower Third Avenue would walk straight by but keep his eyes glued to the pictures on the billboards outside the ticket booth.

Earlier this year the Department of Health closed the Variety Photo Plays, which was operating as a gay movie theater. Now it is still and musty inside, its 1940’s candy machine empty, its projection booth a small museum of antique apparatus – carbon arc projection lighting was discontinued only a few years ago. The owner, the 110-112 Third Avenue Realty Corporation, includes members of the same families who owned it since the 1920’s. In their hands lies the fate of a institution that will live on at least in the memories of many New Yorkers.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Embassy 1,2,3 Theatre on Apr 23, 2012 at 12:48 pm

bigjoe, I think you are talking about short-lived storefront nickelodeons.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Guild Theater on Apr 23, 2012 at 10:46 am

I think the confusion comes from this NYT article.

[In 1949, Norman Elson, who was then the president of the competing Trans-Lux chain, took over the Newsreel theaters.

‘'That was just the beginning of TV,’‘ Peter Elson recalled, ’‘and he saw that newsreels were not much longer for the world.’‘ Norman Elson remodeled the theater and reopened it as the Guild.]

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Embassy 1,2,3 Theatre on Apr 17, 2012 at 1:05 pm

If you search for the ART or MOVIELAND you can get Cantor Film Center, its current name, as an option. The problem is you need to know that it is now called that in order to find it.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Embassy 1,2,3 Theatre on Apr 17, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Bigjoe59, there was the ART (Movieland 8th Street) further down.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Paree Adult Cinema and Live Show on Apr 13, 2012 at 7:23 am

Anyone who would dismiss Times Square based on their disapproval of what may be happening on the fringes is seriously closed minded, and this poster had already admitted to that. Most of it still happens today behind the facade of the new Disneyscape, as vice never dies.

I never understood the mindset that could blame a sexuality transmitted disease on a building. I suppose if we shut down the Port Authority in Times Square it would end teenage prostitution in America.

AIDS is still thriving in many parts of the world without a porn cinema in sight, including sections of NY and LA.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Paree Adult Cinema and Live Show on Apr 12, 2012 at 6:12 pm

“I seriously doubt if anyone in an adult theater spent any time admiring the proscenium.”

Check out the Adonis page and you will find out you are also wrong about that, aside from being homophobic, racist and apparently fattist.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Paree Adult Cinema and Live Show on Apr 11, 2012 at 10:08 pm

“It was really unique and will never be duplicated.”

I have to agree….

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Paree Adult Cinema and Live Show on Apr 11, 2012 at 10:05 pm

Saps, I understand your well intended contribution. It is what makes cinematreasures work for many of us.

Moviemanforever, what are you afraid of? It happened already, buddy! Please tell us what your roll was or stay away and deny.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about New Metro Twin on Apr 5, 2012 at 2:58 pm

This is great news!

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Ziegfeld Theatre on Apr 4, 2012 at 4:56 pm

The NY Times mentions plans for a new Lincoln Center Cinerama location back in 1962. That,of course, never happened.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Tribune Theatre on Apr 3, 2012 at 11:21 am

Could it be the Majestic in Jersey City you are thinking of?

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about New Amsterdam Theatre on Apr 3, 2012 at 6:27 am

Dave, the marquee on the front right is actually the Anco. Note that the Roxy and the Modells' both moved on 42nd street over the years.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Tribune Theatre on Apr 3, 2012 at 6:10 am

There was a Majestic (Woolworth)further north on Second Avenue. Here

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Loew's Commodore Theater on Mar 19, 2012 at 7:35 pm

Breathtaking!

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Capitol Theatre on Mar 14, 2012 at 8:53 am

Eighty two years ago.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Roxy Theatre on Mar 12, 2012 at 8:55 am

A February 21, 1960 NY Times article on the Roxy closing makes this interesting observation:

“The poor old Roxy was never too successful, sandwiched as it is between the Scylla of the older capitol and the Charybdis of the newer Music Hall. Its various programs of pictures with stage shows (and without stage shows) have had to compete with programs that have usually been a little better at one or the other of those near-by theatres.”

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Orpheum Theatre on Mar 10, 2012 at 11:50 am

It’s hard to get a photo of this theatre without STOMP on the marquee. It has been playing for 18 years.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Bijou Cinema on Mar 1, 2012 at 7:53 am

MarkieS, sounds like it could have been part of the Theatre Unique but I haven’t seen any sign it was ever called the Lyric.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about RKO Proctor's 125th Street Theatre on Feb 25, 2012 at 9:07 pm

Thank you, Ed. I understand the post now.

By the way, I also thank you for teaching me how to hyperlink!

On a personal note, I think you would ‘need’ to see this: I don’t know how to buffer it. It hurts too much.

http://vanishingnewyork.blogspot.com/2012/02/inside-elk.html

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about RKO 86th Street Theatre on Feb 23, 2012 at 11:10 am

Here

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Radio City Music Hall on Feb 12, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Ed, I think “Tom Sawyer” holds up. The rest, not so much.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Majestic Theatre on Feb 12, 2012 at 3:04 pm

I guess I mapped the 2nd Avenue on the east side of the street for some reason but that well be that theatre. It says BENEFIT TICKETS on the banner above.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Radio City Music Hall on Feb 12, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Ed, Ron3853 ran this on July 18, 2004.

I then ran this in 2008: THE SUNSHINE BOYS ran until January 22, 1976 March 12- May 12, 1976 ROBIN AND MARIAN May 13- June 3, 1976 THE BLUE BIRD June 4- June 17, 1976 1776 June 18- July 28, 1976 HARRY & WALTER GO TO NEW YORK July 29- Sept 15, 1976 SWASHBUCKLER Sept 16- October 6, 1976 PAPER TIGER October 7- November 3, 1976 A MATTER OF TIME November 4-January 12, 1977 THE SLIPPER AND THE ROSE March 3- March 30, 1977 MR. BILLION March 31 – April 27, 1977 THE LITTLEST HORSE THIEVES April 28- May 18, 1977 THE STING May 19- June 29, 1977 SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT June 30- September 15, 1977 MacARTHUR November 3- January 11, 1978 PETE’S DRAGON March 2- April 16, 1978 CROSSED SWORDS April 27- May 17, 1978 THE SEA GYSPSIES May 18- June 21, 1978 FANTASIA June 22- August 2, 1978 MATILDA August 3- ? THE MAGIC OF LASSIE November 2- January 17, 1979 CARAVANS March 8 – April 25, 1979 THE PROMISE